Nine-year-old Rachel Beckwith didn't live long enough to reach her goal of raising $300 to bring clean water to African villagers. She died in a 13-car accident on Interstate 90 in Bellevue, Wash., last week, the Seattle Times reported. Since then, hundreds of thousands of dollars have flowed into the charity page she set up shortly before her accident, with more than 9,000 people contributing $368,000 to Rachel's cause.
The 9-year-old told family and friends she didn't want presents for her June 12 birthday, only donations to the non-profit Charity Water.
"I found out that millions of people don't live to see their 5th birthday," Rachel wrote. "And why? Because they didn't have access to clean, safe water so I'm celebrating my birthday like never before. I'm asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday. Every penny of the money raised will go directly to fund freshwater projects in developing nations."
Rachel had only raised $220 by the time her birthday came, so she closed the page. But after the tragic accident, Rachel's pastor at Eastlake Community Church, Ryan Meeks, brought the page back up and publicized it on the church's website. As news of Rachel's cause spread, more and more people found and donated to Rachel's page, many leaving personal comments about how touched they were by her selflessness.
"Thank you for your generous heart and for inspiring such generosity in others," wrote an anonymous donor who gave $45 to the charity. Another donor who left $9 wrote: "Say hello to my Jesse."
Rachel's mother Samantha Paul posted on Monday that she was in "awe" of the flood of support. "In the face of unexplainable pain you have provided undeniable hope," she wrote. "I know Rachel is smiling!"